This changes everything Capitalism vs. the climate

Naomi Klein, 1970-

Book - 2014

"Klein argues that climate change isn't just another issue to be neatly filed between taxes and health care. It's an alarm that calls us to fix an economic system that is already failing us in many ways. Klein ... builds the case for how massively reducing our greenhouse emissions is our best chance to simultaneously reduce gaping inequalities, re-imagine our broken democracies, and rebuild our gutted local economies"--

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New York : Simon & Schuster 2014.
First Simon & Schuster hardcover edition
Physical Description
x, 566 pages ; 24 cm
Includes bibliographical references and index.
Main Author
Naomi Klein, 1970- (-)
  • One way or another, everything changes
  • The right is right : the revolutionary power of climate change
  • Hot money : how free market fundamentalism helped overheat the planet
  • Public and paid for : overcoming the ideological blocks to the next economy
  • Planning and banning : slapping the invisible hand, building a movement
  • Beyond extractivism : confronting the climate denier within
  • Fruits, not roots : the disastrous merger of big business and big green
  • No messiahs : the green billionaires won't save us
  • Dimming the sun : the solution to pollution is pollution?
  • Blockadia : the new climate warriors
  • Love will save this place : democracy, divestment, and the wins so far
  • You and what army? : indigenous rights and the power of keeping our word
  • Sharing the sky : the atmospheric commons and the power of paying our debts
  • The right to regenerate : moving from extraction to renewal
  • The leap years : just enough time for impossible.
Review by Choice Review

Putting together the pieces of the climate-change puzzle, Klein (public intellectual and investigative journalist) argues that civilization is, literally, at the point of no return vis-à-vis the climate--and that the threat is existential. Klein explains the basic science of the climate change crisis and pins responsibility for it on a fuel-extraction industry that, driven by a grow-or-die imperative, pursues carbon reserves via ever dirtier methods of extraction--and has no economic incentive to stop. Though the situation is dire, an element of hope and optimism runs through this book. Klein provides a road map to climate stabilization and sustainability. She argues that the path forward requires populist action at the local level, and she gives numerous examples of what such action and policies look like. Though some might read here a left-leaning political message, in fact habitability of the planet and survival of the species are post-political issues. Klein leans away from market-oriented solutions. Since climate change is a by-product of a market failure--overuse of a basic resource, the planet--solutions must come from outside the market (regulation, taxation, combinations of the two). Klein's suggestions are appropriate, reasonable, and well researched. Everyone aspiring to understand climate change should read this book, which could be the most important work of the 21st century. Summing Up: Essential. All readers. --Kevin J. Murphy, Oakland University

Copyright American Library Association, used with permission. Review by New York Times Review

"EVERY INHABITANT OF this planet must contemplate the day when this planet may no longer be habitable." Thus spoke President Kennedy in a 1961 address to the United Nations. The threat he warned of was not climate chaos - barely a blip on anybody's radar at the time - but the hydrogen bomb. The nuclear threat had a volatile urgency and visual clarity that the sprawling, hydra-headed menace of today's climate calamity cannot match. How can we rouse citizens and governments to act for concerted change? Will it take, as Naomi Klein insists, nothing less than a Marshall Plan for Earth? "This Changes Everything: Capitalism vs. the Climate" is a book of such ambition and consequence that it is almost unreviewable. Klein's fans will recognize her method from her prior books, "No Logo: Taking Aim at the Brand Bullies" (1999) and "The Shock Doctrine: The Rise of Disaster Capitalism" (2007), which, with her latest, form an antiglobalization trilogy. Her strategy is to take a scourge - brand-driven hyperconsumption, corporate exploitation of disaster-struck communities, or "the fiction of perpetual growth on a finite planet" - trace its origins, then chart a course of liberation. In each book she arrives at some semihopeful place, where activists are reaffirming embattled civic values. To call "This Changes Everything" environmental is to limit Klein's considerable agenda. "There is still time to avoid catastrophic warming," she contends, "but not within the rules of capitalism as they are currently constructed. Which is surely the best argument there has ever been for changing those rules." On the green left, many share Klein's sentiments. George Monbiot, a columnist for The Guardian, recently lamented that even though "the claims of market fundamentalism have been disproven as dramatically as those of state communism, somehow this zombie ideology staggers on." Klein, Monbiot and Bill McKibben all insist that we cannot avert the ecological disaster that confronts us without loosening the grip of that superannuated zombie ideology. That philosophy - neoliberalism - promotes a high-consumption, carbon-hungry system. Neoliberalism has encouraged mega-mergers, trade agreements hostile to environmental and labor regulations, and global hypermobility, enabling a corporation like Exxon to make, as McKibben has noted, "more money last year than any company in the history of money." Their outsize power mangles the democratic process. Yet the carbon giants continue to reap $600 billion in annual subsidies from public coffers, not to speak of a greater subsidy: the right, in Klein's words, to treat the atmosphere as a "waste dump." So much for the invisible hand. As the science fiction writer Kim Stanley Robinson observed, when it comes to the environment, the invisible hand never picks up the check. Klein diagnoses impressively what hasn't worked. No more claptrap about tracked gas as a bridge to renewables. Enough already of the international summit meetings that produce sirocco-quality hot air, and nonbinding agreements that bind us all to more emissions. Klein dismantles the boondoggle that is cap and trade. She skewers grandiose command-and-control schemes to re-engineer the planet's climate. No point, when a hubristic mind-set has gotten us into this mess, to pile on further hubris. She reserves a special scorn for the partnerships between Big Green organizations and Immense Carbon, peddled as win-win for everyone, but which haven't slowed emissions. Such partnerships remind us that when the lamb and the lion lie down together, only one of them gets eaten. In democracies driven by lobbyists, donors and plutocrats, the giant polluters are going to win while the rest of us, in various degrees of passivity and complicity, will watch the planet die. "Any attempt to rise to the climate challenge will be fruitless unless it is understood as part of a much broader battle of worldviews," Klein writes. "Our economic system and our planetary system are now at war." Klein reminds us that neoliberalism was once an upstart counterrevolution. Through an epic case of bad timing, the Reagan-Thatcher revolution, the rise of the anti-regulatory World Trade Organization, and the cult of privatizing and globalizing everything coincided with the rising public authority of climate science. In 1988, James Hansen, director of NASA's Goddard Institute, delivered historic testimony at Congressional hearings, declaring that the science was 99 percent unequivocal: The world was warming and we needed to act collectively to reduce emissions. Just one year earlier, Margaret Thatcher famously declared: "There is no such thing as society. There are individual men and women and there are families." In the battle since, between a collective strategy for forging an inhabitable long-term future and the antisocial, hyper-corporatized, hyper-carbonized pursuit of short-term growth at any cost, well, there has been only one clear winner. But counterrevolutions are reversible. Klein devotes much of her book to propitious signs that this can happen - indeed is happening. The global climate justice movement is spreading. Since the mid-1990s, environmental protests have been growing in China at 29 percent per year. Where national leaders have faltered, local governments are forging ahead. Hundreds of German cities and towns have voted to buy back their energy grids from corporations. About two-thirds of Britons favor renationalizing energy and rail. The divestment movement against Big Carbon is gathering force. While it will never bankrupt the mega-corporations, it can reveal unethical practices while triggering a debate about values that recognizes that such practices are nested in economic systems that encourage, inhibit or even prohibit them. The voices Klein gathers from across the world achieve a choral force. We hear a Montana goat rancher describe how an improbable alliance against Big Coal between local Native American tribes and settler descendants awakened in the latter a different worldview of time and change and possibility. We hear participants in Idle No More, the First Nations movement that has swept across Canada and beyond, contrast the "extractivist mind-set" with systems "designed to promote more life." One quibble: What's with the subtitle? "Capitalism vs. the Climate" sounds like a P.R. person's idea of a marquee cage fight, but it belies the sophistication and hopefulness of Klein's argument. As is sometimes said, it is easier to imagine the end of the world than to imagine the end of capitalism. Klein's adversary is neo-liberalism - the extreme capitalism that has birthed our era of extreme extraction. Klein is smart and pragmatic enough to shun the never-never land of capitalism's global overthrow. What she does, brilliantly, is provide a historically refined exposé of "capitalism's drift toward monopoly," of "corporate interests intent on capturing and radically shrinking the public sphere," and of "the disaster capitalists who use crises to end-run around democracy." To change economic norms and ethical perceptions in tandem is even more formidable than the technological battle to adapt to the heavy weather coming down the tubes. Yet "This Changes Everything" is, improbably, Klein's most optimistic book. She braids together the science, psychology, geopolitics, economics, ethics and activism that shape the climate question. The result is the most momentous and contentious environmental book since "Silent Spring." ROB NIXON'S latest book is "Slow Violence and the Environmentalism of the Poor." 'There is still time to avoid catastrophic warming, but not within the rules of capitalism.'

Copyright (c) The New York Times Company [November 2, 2014] Review by Booklist Review

*Starred Review* Journalist Klein is a resolute investigator into the dark side of unchecked capitalism. The author of two previous international best-sellers, including The Shock Doctrine: The Rise of Disaster Capitalism (2007), she has, of late, devoted her exceptional research and reportorial skills to the subject overarching everything else: climate change and the viability of life itself. The result is an enormous, complex, compelling, and, by turns, distressing and rallying analysis of the dysfunctional symbiotic relationships between free-market capitalism, the fossil fuels industry, and global warming.Klein follows the dark money behind the propaganda of climate-change denial, the effort to dismantle the federal government to curtail corporate regulation, and the justification for the feverish pursuit of the riskiest forms of carbon-emission-producing energy from tar sands extraction to deep-water drilling, fracking, and mountaintop-removal coal mining. Klein also explains why we feel locked in--politically, physically, and culturally to business as usual and unable to make the profound changes needed to avert climate-change disasters. We have it backwards, Klein attests. We certainly can reform our economy; what can't be changed is our utter dependency on nature's processes.Klein circles the planet, chronicling the social and environmental decimation wrought by 30 years of free-market capitalism and corporate greed, noting a close correlation between low wages and high emissions, and reports on courageous citizens mobilizing to protect local forests, rivers, and farmland, in spite of being confronted by heavily militarized police forces. Klein exposes the failures of the Big Green environmental organizations, the dangers of growing corporate political power, and the pressing need for action as we face escalating catastrophic storms and droughts. Within this mammoth mosaic of assiduously collected facts and bold analysis, Klein addresses every aspect of the causes and threats of climate change and the paradox of why we behave as though we value the mythical free-market more than real life itself.This comprehensive, sure-to-be controversial inquiry, one of the most thorough, eloquent, and enlightening books yet on this urgent and overwhelming subject alongside works by Bill McKibben, Elizabeth Kolbert, and Diane Ackerman provides the evidence and the reasoning we need to help us shift to a worldview based on regeneration and renewal rather than domination and depletion. --Seaman, Donna Copyright 2014 Booklist

From Booklist, Copyright (c) American Library Association. Used with permission. Review by Publisher's Weekly Review

The struggle for a sustainable world is really a fight against capitalism, according to this sprawling manifesto from Nation columnist Klein (The Shock Doctrine). She gives a rousing, if familiar, rundown of the perils of global warming and singles out energy corporations in particular, and the "extractivist" economic system and ideology in general, as the planet's great enemies. Her proposed remedies include strict regulation of fossil fuels and investments in renewable energy, but also a vision of a low-consumption, no-growth, localist, people-over-profits economy coupled to a social transformation that emphasizes cooperation with nature instead of dominion over it. Klein's gifts for catchy, aphoristic prose and vivid journalistic montage are well-displayed and her critiques sometimes trenchant, as when she skewers hubristic geoengineering schemes, carbon offset scams, and the pseudo-green billionaire Richard Branson. Unfortunately, her grasp of energy policy is questionable: she uncritically repeats renewables boosterism while ignoring their limitations and her dismissal of nuclear power as a low-carbon energy source is ill-informed. By drawing "everything" into her thesis Klein dilutes her over-stuffed book's consistency and coherence; worse, her tendency to demonize more than analyze leaves unaddressed the real-world conflicts and contradictions that make climate policy so intractable. Agent: Amanda Urban, ICM. (Sept.) © Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.

Review by Library Journal Review

Klein (The Shock Doctrine) here presents a timely summary of the alarming state of the world's climate and her no-nonsense view of the drastic, challenging work that must be done before life on Earth is threatened. Klein reminds listeners that the time for less-extreme measures has long passed. As she explains, the impact of capitalism, human greed, and selfishness, and the ever-increasing addiction to profit and growth continue to dig humanity deeper and deeper into possible climatological oblivion. She is adamant that what will save the world is a radical transformation of the current economic system and the application of entrepreneurial enthusiasm to break the worldwide dependence on carbon sources of energy. She also explains how a new process of rebuilding and reinventing the collective, the communal, the commons, and the civil might, after many decades of attack and neglect, begin a new era of natural worldwide climate cycles that would no longer be caused by human folly. Ellen Archer's steady, solid reading helps connect listeners with this densely packed work. VERDICT This important contribution to the rapidly growing climate change genre is highly recommended for all collections.-Dale Farris, Groves, TX (c) Copyright 2014. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

(c) Copyright Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted. Review by Kirkus Book Review

A best-selling anti-globalization activist and author argues that surviving the climate emergency will require radical changes in how we live.The time for marginal fixes has expired, writes Klein (The Shock Doctrine: The Rise of Disaster Capitalism, 2007, etc.). We will not be saved by toothless international agreements, spurious political bargains, outlandish geoengineering environmental groups in bed with corporations or magical thinking of any kindand surely not by deregulating the capitalist system responsible for the crisis. Carbon emissions continue to rise, and greenhouse gases dangerously accumulate as the fossil fuel industry ramps up devastating extraction. In part, Klein's narrative is a personal story about her own awakening to and increasing engagement with the climate issue. But this always-interesting polemic is built mostly on her interviews with experts, environmentalists and activists and her colorful on-site reporting from various international meetings and conferences and particularly from worldwide pockets of resistance to corporate bullying. "Blockadia," she calls these places, where communities have risen to oppose open-pit mining, fracking and pipelines. In them she finds hope for a grass-roots rebellion, a kind of "People's Shock" where push back against the aggressive energy industry can be a catalyst for advancing a range of policies dear to the progressive agenda. Klein has no time for deniers of man-made global warming, but she credits right-wing ideologues with better understanding the high stakes, the vast scope of the changes necessary to meet the climate challenge. This awareness accounts for their vigorous opposition to the activists' docket and for the movement's consequent loss of momentum for the past decade. The author's journalism won't slow down the fossil fuel companies, but it surely holds out hope for activists looking to avert a disaster, for a widespread people's movement that, if it happens, "changes everything." A sharp analysis that is bound to be widely discussed, with all the usual suspects, depending on their politics, lining up to cheer or excoriate Klein. Copyright Kirkus Reviews, used with permission.

Copyright (c) Kirkus Reviews, used with permission.